My family had the good fortune to live fairly close to one of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania amusement parks—West View Park. During the 1950’s, when I was an elementary school student, our annual school picnic was held at West View Park located in West View, Pennsylvania. How we looked forward to that special day spent at the park—riding the various rides, spending money in the penny arcade, eating hot dogs and cotton candy and wandering aimlessly around the midway with school friends. West View Park is no longer there. The grounds have been turned into a shopping center. Long gone is the park however, my memories of the Dips (that famous wooden roller coaster), the Racing Whippet, Kiddieland and the beautiful carousel are etched in my mind.
I digress....this blog is not about me, but my paternal grandparents, George Henry Hughes and Sarah Margaret VanGilder Hughes. They also lived near West View Park in Avalon, and then Bellevue, Pennsylvania. The amusement park was built in 1906. No one in the family knows if George and Sarah spent a Saturday afternoon strolling about West View Park. During the 1930’s and 1940’s there was a building in West View Park called the Dancing Pavilion. During the Great Depression and following, dancing was held everynight except Sunday. Charles J. Jacques, Jr., in his book, “Goodbye West View Park Goodbye,” explains that, “Dancing helped keep West View Park afloat during the Great Depression” and “West View Park started importing big name bands like Ted Fiorite, Tommy Tucker, Ace Brigode, Don Bestor and others.”
My grandparents were dancers. According to my Aunt Faith, her folks (my Grams and Pop Pop) would go to Danceland, almost weekly. Often there were dance contests and Grams and Pop Pop would win a prize and occasionally it was first prize!
Dance must have been genetic as both my father and his sister, Faith loved to dance. Faith was given a full tuition scholarship to what was then called Carnegie Tech after her dance audition. She continued to teach dancing well into her 70’s. My brothers and I enjoy dancing although I’m certainly not in the prize category ;- )
Charles J. Jacques, Jr., “Goodbye West View Park Goodbye,” Amusement Park Journal, Jefferson, Ohio, 1985.